Fort Bend County Leaders Talk About American Rescue Plan Act Funding

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Counties can use American Rescue Plan Act funds for a number of purposes, including responding to the public health emergency and its negative economic effects by helping households, small businesses, nonprofits or organizations. industries particularly affected by the pandemic. (Community impact newspaper staff)

Fort Bend County Commissioners on June 22 approved an amended budget of $ 157.42 million in American Rescue Plan Act coronavirus relief funds, despite some court disagreements.

The US $ 1.9 trillion bailout law was enacted in March. According to the Texas Association of Counties, counties can use the funds for several purposes, including responding to the public health emergency and its negative economic effects by helping households, small businesses, nonprofits or industries particularly affected by the pandemic.

Counties are scheduled to spend the funds by December 31, 2024. Fort Bend County Commissioners first approved a preliminary budget for the allocation of the $ 157.42 million the county received in May.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Grady Prestage, who presented himself as the main architect of the budget, said at the June 22 meeting budget amendment reflects a more specific plan for how the county plans to spend the funding that was approved in May. However, the budget is a changing document, he said, and will likely be changed further.

During the tribunal’s discussion, Ward 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers said he was concerned that several items in the budget might not be eligible for funding, including $ 6.2 million earmarked for projects in ‘EMS installations. In addition, he said he did not understand or agree with how some of the money was allocated, including $ 16 million going to the health and social services department. County.

“There isn’t a lot of detail behind some of these numbers, they more or less look like take numbers,” he said.

Prestage, however, said he disagreed, saying it was vital the county build its public health infrastructure before the next pandemics.

“I want to make sure that we have the epidemiologists that we need, the data analysts that we need, all that sort of thing… $ 16 million out of $ 157 million spent on public health, on public health. money that was mainly given for the pandemic, is fair, ”he said.

Meyers also said he is disputing the amount of funds allocated to companies. According to the budget, more than $ 30 million in funding is earmarked for economic stimulus, including $ 25 million for a business grant program and $ 500,000 for a small business advisory program.

“Unfortunately, a lot of businesses have been forced to close because of the lockdown, and we have a lot of people out of work. … We should be the ones trying to help them get back to business, frankly, ”he said.

In this regard, Meyers said he proposed a program – which would exist in conjunction with another entity’s Small Business Administration loan program – that would help affected businesses during the pandemic.

Prestage explained that the budget amendment – which the court ultimately approved – does not make any allocation of funds final, as the individual items will later be submitted to the court for approval before the money is spent. He urged the court to approve the budget amendment so it can move forward with updated numbers from what was approved in May, and asked Meyers to clarify details of his program. proposed and share more information about it at a future meeting.

Additionally, County Auditor Ed Sturdivant confirmed that the court can change the budget in the event any proposed items are not eligible for funding.

“This tribunal is running this ship,” Sturdivant said. “You have a huge responsibility for the proper use of these funds, we are all working to help you make it happen. ”


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